Price is Mr. Excitement for Patriots

Rick Barbero/The Register-HeraldIndependence's Judah Price breaks away from Roane County defenders during their Class AA state quarterfinal game Friday at Independence. The host Patriots won the game 22-8.

Independence’s offensive workhorse Atticus Goodson simply shook his head and said what everyone else on the Patriots sideline knew.

"Don’t play, man,” Goodson said. “Just don’t.”

Goodson was speaking about his teammate Judah Price, who has ingratiated himself to his teammates, coaches and fanbase by being a man of many talents. On Friday night in the Class AA quarterfinals against Roane County, he was doing it again.

And in key fashion.

Goodson specifically was talking about Price’s 66-yard touchdown catch from Logan Phalin, when Roane County found out you can’t cover Price one-on-one.

After a big fourth down stop, Independence went straight for the jugular when Price streaked straight down the field, passed his man and Phalin laid it out for Price to get it. Any help Roane could get from the safety was late arriving and Price hauled in the pass at the 23-yard line and ran into the end zone.

“He’s deceptively fast,” Goodson joked.

He’s also a fairly dangerous man with the ball in his hands, Mr. Excitement with a penchant for the big play.

He also had a big 43-yard punt return in the first half, when nothing was going right for the Patriots offensively, that helped set up the first touchdown, a Phalin 16-yard touchdown run that brought the Patriots within two, 8-6, at the half.

This a week after he returned three punts for 156 yards, including a 79-yard touchdown in a 73-7 win over Shady Spring.

“He’s the best punt returner in the state, best specialist in the state by far, in my opinion,” Goodson said.

Price has done a little bit of everything, and done it well, for the Patriots.

He has 802 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns, eight receptions for 251 yards and four touchdowns and he has been a field flipper on special teams.

He has four games of over 100 yards rushing, including a career-high 251 against Class A playoff team Midland Trail. He had a 96-yard receiving game against then-No. 5 Nicholas County with two touchdowns. Price has scored at least one touchdown in nine of 10 games this season.

“He’s a beast,” coach John H. Lilly said, reiterating what he first said when Independence scrimmaged Bluefield, who the Patriots will face Friday for a trip to the Super Six.

“He’s a special, special player. It’s nice to have guys like Judah and Atticus that you can put the ball in their hands and something is going to happen.”

It was his touchdown reception when he ripped the top off the Roane defense that was the big play, and one he knew was going to work.

“I told coach that play was open the whole night, even in the first half,” Price said. “In the first half I saw it. We ran the (route, though the play ended up being a run) and those DBs bit so hard.”

“He trusted me and Logan put it on the money. They hadn’t seen the play. We had it called twice but it didn’t play out because we would hand it off if it wasn’t open. It ended up being open, the DBs didn’t know what to do and I was wide open.”

Lilly confirmed it.

“Yeah, he did (recognize it), I think it was in the second quarter,” Lilly said. “We were going to come back to it but we never got the ball in the third quarter (when the Patriots ran just five offensive plays). It was his call. He saw it, I saw it, too, but he saw it first. We’ve got some smart guys. We don’t always do smart things, but we have some smart kids. (Price) called his own number and Logan delivered. It was a great job.”

It’s a trust factor that Lilly has with his veteran players like Price, a three-year starter.

He won’t say exactly what the play is – craftsmen do not give away all trade secrets – but he did say it was one designed for him, but it can go to other players.

Price has also been a standout on defense, the second-leading tackler on the team, and the Patriots did a number on Roane’s run game Friday night.

The Raiders entered the game averaging 279 yards a game rushing and Independence held the Raiders to 75 yards rushing on 44 carries, an average of 1.7 yards per carry. The Raiders' top two rushers, Brier Begler (1,499 yards entering the game) and Skyler Delk (1,059) combined for just 53 yards. Roane had 11 carries for a loss of yardage and just two of over 10 or more, and one of those came on a fake punt.

Now the Patriots' attention turns to Bluefield, a team Price and his teammates know well.

“We’ve seen them a lot, we know what they do,” Price said. “We played them (in a scrimmage game), we know they are physical. We’re physical. We know what to do.”

Friday's box score

RC  0 8 0 0 — 8

I 0 6 0 16 — 22

Second quarter

RC – Skyler Delk 2 run (Colton Paxton pass from Shadraq Greathouse), 11:49

I – Logan Phalin 16 run (run failed), 2:30

Fourth quarter

I – Judah Price 66 pass from Phalin (Atticus Goodson run), 8:34

I – Goodson 56 run (Goodson run), 6:30

INDIVIDUAL STATS

RUSHING – RC: Skyler Delk 10-32-1, Brier Begler 17-21, Shadraq Greathouse 13-6, Ethan Collins 3-27, Team 1-(minus-11). I: Logan Phalin 12-65-1, Atticus Goodson 19-153-1, Judah Price 2-4, Team 1-(minus-2).

PASSING – RC: Greathouse 12-20-1-158-0, Begler 0-0-1-0-0, I: Phalin 4-12-0-93-1.

RECEIVING – RC: Tyson Pena 3-31, Delk 4-60, Layne Epling 2-17, Begler 2-46. I: A. Goodson 2-9, Trey Bowers 1-18, Price 1-66-1.

TAKEAWAYS – RC none, I: Braxton McKinney FR, Trey Bowers INT, Logan Isom FR, Cyrus Goodson INT.

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